Aaron Hernandez's suicide in prison on Wednesday stunned his family who said the former NFL star was determined to prove his innocence.
Hernandez, 27, was recently acquitted in a 2012 double murder case in Boston and was appealing his conviction in the 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd.
His body was found at 3:05 a.m. the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, reported CNN.
Prison officials told WBZ-TV that Hernandez hung himself using a bed sheet that he attached to his cell window at the correctional center.
"The family and legal team (are) shocked and surprised at the news of Aaron's death," said Jose Baez, an attorney hired by the family, per CNN. "There were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was possible."
"Aaron was looking forward to an opportunity for a second chance to prove his innocence. Those who love and care about him are heartbroken and determined to find the truth surrounding his untimely death."
WBZ-TV said Hernandez had the words "John 3:16" on his forehead when he was found dead in his cell. It refers to the popular Bible verse that says that whoever believes in Jesus Christ "shall not perish but have everlasting life."
Hernandez also appeared to have red marks on his hands and feet. Sources said authorities are following up on possibility that he may have smoked smoked synthetic marijuana Tuesday night.
Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Bar Association, told the Boston Globe that Hernandez likely died innocent of his murder conviction because of a principle called "abatement ab inito."
Even though Hernandez was convicted in death of Lloyd, he was in the middle of appealing it. The principle means if a person's has not exhausted all of their legal appeals by the time of their death, their case reverts to its beginning status, as if the trial and conviction never happened, said the Globe.
Last week, Hernandez was acquitted of murder charges in the shooting deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in south Boston in July 2012, reported CNN.
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